Thank you to everyone who entered our first annual short story contest. It was a pleasure to read your fiction. There were many, many fantastic stories to choose from, but in the end our winner was clear. “The Selkie’s Daughter” by Gina L. Grandi caught us in a fishing net of visceral prose.
Gina L. Grandi is a doctoral student and adjunct professor in the Educational Theatre program at New York University’s Steinhardt School. In her former life, she was a public school teacher in San Francisco and a teaching artist and arts administrator in New York. She is currently the co-founder and artistic director of The Bechdel Group, a new play development company dedicated to challenging the role of women on stage. Her writing was recently featured on the site 100 Word Story and she has received a number of very kind rejection letters from a wide variety of publishers and literary journals. Gina has a BA from Vassar College, a Masters from New York University, and an extensive finger puppet collection. She can be found on twitter at @yonderpaw.
“But the sea does not let go and she was part of the sea. She was drawn again and again to the water’s edge, trailing her fingers through the foam. She held fistfuls of wet sand in her pockets. The hems of her skirts were stiff with salt. She smelled my father’s hands when he came home, pressing her face into the brine and the tang of fish that lived in the crease of his palms.”
If you’re wondering what to read this summer, you’ve tuned into the right podcast. We’re excited to have Boris Fishman joining us today to talk about his debut novel, The Replacement Life, out from HarperCollins on June 3rd. It’s a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for the summer, and having recently finished the book myself, I heartily agree with that choice!
Boris was born in Minsk, in the former Soviet Union, in 1979, and emigrated to the United States in 1988. He received a degree in Russian Literature from Princeton University, and an MFA in Fiction from New York University, where he was a New York Times Foundation Fellow. The list of residences and fellowships he’s received includes the New York Foundation of the Arts, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in Northern California. Boris’s journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker,The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, Harper’s, Vogue, The London Review of Books, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, but has also supported his writing by working as a hiking guide, a farm laborer, a market researcher, and the editorial director of a tech start-up. But today he’s here to talk about writing fiction. (29:39)
“You work alone in a room, day in and day out, for three years, and then your agent calls you one day and says that HarperCollins wants to issue a preempt offer for this novel… It’s meant to reflect the enthusiasm of the house for the book. To get any offer at all would have been incredibly affirming after three years of uphill climbing. Years that, I want to point out, were filled with no after no.”
“Even when I was getting said no to… it was still kind of amazing that the answer wasn’t, I don’t think this could sell. The answer was, I need to be on fire about this, and because I’m not, I regretfully have to turn it away… So, even though the answer was no, it’s wonderful to be part of a business where the heart is deciding along with the mind and the wallet.”
“You’re calling me on a very significant day. Just this very morning I finished revising my second novel. So, I will be having a drink later.”
“I’m just about fully secular, however, I feel profoundly Jewish… I grew up in a very secular country. So, where I connect to Jewishness is the literature, the culture, the history, the humor, the language, the inflection, the grammar, the way of speaking.”
“Everyone agrees that money can’t restitute suffering, and yet the slate is expected to be wiped clean after [restitution is made]. One of the amazing things about Germany, at least for me as a Jew, and as the grandson of a survivor, is that this country has continued to remember its responsibility and to commemorate long after it satisfied its monetary obligations, such as they are.”
“I’m the child of immigrants; it would be so awesome if I were interested in something more stable and lucrative than writing fiction. So, even as there’s [one eye on] MFA world, the other eye is swiveling around looking for other opportunities. It’s a blessing that they came along relatively rarely.”
“I’m the one-man MFA-defense army. It’s so fashionable to knock MFAs these days. In my case, it was essential. It provided structure that I didn’t have, deadlines… It made me interested in discipline in a way I hadn’t been previously. I did not start writing every day until I started my MFA. Like a job, every morning, Monday through Friday.”
Who’s Who & Books
Bernard Malamud — An American novelist and short story writer whose “gorgeously mangled syntax” inspired Boris in his writing of The Replacement Life.